NICOSIA – Not mincing his words, Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades said Turkey is conducting a “second invasion” by violating the country’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) with a threat search for oil and gas in competition with foreign companies.
That was in reference to the unlawful 1974 invasion in which Turkey, in two separate waves, occupied the northern third of the island declared a Republic no other country in the world recognizes.
That’s a major source of irritation for Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who refuses to recognize the legitimate government and bars Cypriot ships and planes. Cyprus is a member of the European Union that Turkey wants to join.
Uity talks in July, 2017 at the Swiss resort of Crans-Montana failed when Erdogan and Turkish-Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci said they would never remove an army on the occupied area and wanted the right to militarily intervene.
That has led a frustrated Erdogan to step up provocations in the East Mediterranean and Aegean, having earlier sent warships near Cyprus’ EEZ in a bid to force off foreign companies looking for oil and gas.
Not satisfied with Anastasiades’ offer to share any potentially lucrative revenues after the American energy giant ExxonMobil said it had found a big gas field, Erdogan wants Turkish-Cypriots to take part in the licensing and ordered drilling in response.
Cyprus has also licensed France’s Total and Italy’s Eni and the Texas company Noble to look for energy which has proved to be a catalyst in the reunification hopes and set off new squabbles.
Anastasiades said Turkey’s behavior creates “insurmountable problems” in efforts to restart reunification negotiations and said there will be no talks while the island remains under threat.
That threw a monkey wrench into United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ hopes of rebooting the talks after he failed to negotiate a solution in Switzerland and had sent American diplomat Jane Holl Lute to meet Anastasiades and Akinci.
Cyprus’ government has repeatedly appealed to the UN and the Security Council to intervene, as well as the European Union but has gotten only press releases denouncing Turkey at the same time the bloc and the United States – which also proclaimed support for Cyprus – keeps working with Ankara on other issues.
The government said it would use international laws – which Turkey doesn’t recognize either – in a bid to stop the unlawful drilling with Erdogan showing no sign of backing down and instead increasing the tension.
Cyprus will begin procedures to have an international arrest warrant issued for the crew of the Turkish Fatih vessel that is planning to start hydrocarbon drilling activities off the island’s western coast.
Cyprus, working with Greece, submitted to the United Nations the coordinates delineating the boundaries of Cyprus’ EEZ and its continental shelf border.
“The necessary preparatory work was done by the Republic of Cyprus in relation to Turkey’s illegal actions in the Cyprus EEZ, and this is evident from the immediate and clear reaction of the European Union,” Cyprus’ Foreign Minister, Nikos Christodoulides, said adding he’s talking with the European Commission and other EU countries.
After EU Vice President Federica Mogherini, the bloc’s foreign chief, also blasted Turkey, European Parliament President Antonio Tajani described Turkey’s plans as “a violation of international law,” said Kathimerini, but the EU isn’t prepared yet to go any further.
“The Republic of Cyprus has the full and sovereign right to explore and exploit natural resources within its EEZ. We stand with Cyprus in safeguarding its rights underpinned by international and European law,” said Tajani.
Dependent on Turkey not to flood Greek islands with more refugees and migrants, and with a swap deal technically still force, the EU has been reluctant to do more than make public statements in support of Cyprus with Turkey’s hopes of joining the bloc withering away.
Turkey has remained defiant, saying it has a right under international laws – it doesn’t recognize concerning the seas – to proceed with drilling in waters that are part of Cyprus’ sovereign territory.
Speaking at the North Atlantic Council Mediterranean Dialogue meeting in Ankara , Erdogan said he expects NATO to support his country’s rights in the Eastern Mediterranean although he regularly has Turkish fighter jets and warships violate the airspace and waters of Greece, a fellow member of the defense alliance, which has butted out of it.
Erdogan said after meeting with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, that the “rights” of Turkey and of the Turkish Cypriots to energy sources in the Eastern Mediterranean are “non-negotiable.”
(Material from the Associated Press was used in this report)